Several decades ago the New York Times Review of Books ran a contest to determine the best opening line of a novel written in English, a line that captured the essence of the whole novel, like a Shakespearean Prologue.Some popular responses were, “Call me Ishmael” in Moby Dick. Another, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” in A tale of Two Cities. Neither of these won.
The winner was the opening line from Scaramouche, a novel by Rafael Sabatini: “HE WAS BORN WITH THE GIFT OF LAUGHTER, AND A SENSE THAT THE WORLD IS MAD.”
I mention this opening line and the laughter and joy it contains because it captures the essence of the whole novel in a few words. In this connection, Our Lady of Guadalupe appears in Mexico with a heaven-sent message of joy and trust at a time when the world of the indigenous people of Mexico was turned upside down by the invasion of Spanish conquerors in the 1530’s.
Their world had gone mad. They were faced with the greed and plundering of powerful aliens with horses and firearms that overwhelmed their society. Their own religion was a fearsome experience of human sacrifice to placate vengeful gods.
Into this mad world comes a figure of joy, love and trust, Our Lady of Guadalupe, a lady whose face is familiar and beautiful. Her words are incredibly convincing:
“Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest and dearest son, that the thing that disturbs you, the thing that afflicts you, is nothing. Do not let your countenance, your heart be disturbed. Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you.”
In a few words, Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, blesses the people of Mexico and all people with the essence of the Good News.
Is she not the source of your joy? Of your family’s joy and laughter this holy season?
May you and your family carry her gentle words with you into this holiday season.
For additional reading: Today’s Readings
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Copyright 2017 Fr. Willy Raymond, C.S.C.